Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The Agony and the Ecstasy 1961

This fine biopic drama is about the stormy relationship of Michelangelo and Pope Julius II. It focuses on the four year period when he painted the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel and the wars which constitute the background. The sparkling dialog as well as Rex Harrison's effortless portrayal of a warlike pope hold ones interest over the two and half hours of running time.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Ordet (The Word) 1955 CF Dreyer

This is a stately, solemn, beautiful film about Christian faith, set in Holland. In essence, it is about the drift of religion from its roots in the course of time. We have the picture of splintering of religion into schools, and ritualism, when its original purpose, as well as power, is lost in a mist of oblivion. The movie maintains its grip through a solid plot as well as beautiful direction and photography of an erstwhile Dutch society in an orderly agrarian background: barns, horse carriages, corn fields, antiquated telephones, automobiles and medical practice. Revolving around weighty questions of life and death, it ends with a powerful, illuminating climax. To quote a review: It uncoils, when it moves at all, like a majestic snail.
Old Review

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Distant Thunder

The Bengal Famine of 1943 took a toll of 2 to 5 millions. It was caused by diversion of food supplies due to war needs in SE Asia. The present film is a masterpiece of understatement. The camera telescopes on the lives of a village and scrutinizes the lives of a few characters. Ray is incapable of losing the human focus and we see the schoolmaster and his beautiful wife sucked into desperation by the scarcities. Not only is it about a society in the grip of famine but the stranglehold of hunger and the sinking human spirit. To quote Vincent Canby, it is like seeing it all from a satellite, and observing both the curvature of the earth and the play of tiny insects.

Old Review

Persona

This is a drama of two women. Rudderless and tossed on the powerful waves of life, they struggle to find some mooring: the elder, an actress, takes on a decision of total silence; the younger, her nurse. manages from situation to situation. The film is a series of kaleidoscopic black and white images,of interiors, lamp-lit, or seascapes, stunning in their geometric simplicity. Sven Nyqvist has nowhere else been this good. A curtain wafting in the evening breeze, a bus departing on a deserted road fringing the sea, the grains of the skin. This is a short, satisfying film, and a thing of beauty doesn't need deciphering.
Old review

Friday, August 22, 2014

Sardar 1993

This riveting biopic portrays the events leading to independence and partition. Excellent direction, competent acting and the inherent interest in this historical drama make this a learning experience worth the investment of nearly three hours.